Being referred to as 'plant-based' in the vegan world is a derogatory term often associated with follow vegan-inspired trends, especially with concern to your food, but not upholding the ethics side. This could mean anything from still purchasing make up which is neither cruelty-free nor vegan, wearing animal-derived by-products such as wool or Angora or possibly still eating lesser-known vegan products such as honey. Sometimes within the mixed bag community of social justice warriors and like-minded people the vegan community is made up of, being denounced to the mediocre rank of 'plant-based' can stir individuals to go back to their old habits in a community that are less judgement on their decisions. Educating (without the passive aggression) rather than condemning will most likely be receive a better reception than damning.
But why has 'plant-based' gained this negative connotation? I want to use of plant and bio-based materials for this project and explore the differences between these to animal bio-based materials and emerging bio-based materials.
Growing Biobased Building Materials
The benefit of a shift towards biobased materials could be enormous as these materials have the potential to reduce energy use and greenhouse gasses and produce fewer toxic pollutants over their lifecycle than products that are made from sources such as fossil fuels. edit. (materia.nl, 2016)
What is a bio-based material?
Terms such as the circular economy are often associated with biobased materials for the reason that at heart, biobased materials are about closing and creating short loops. While fossil fuels have long cyclical lifecycles of millions of years, biobased materials have shorter loops of typically a single growing season to about 100 years – i.e. a tree.it. There are two broad categories of biobased materials: Conventional and Emerging. (materia.nl, 2016)
Conventional biobased products and materials are biodegradable and made from animal materials or plant materials. Building material examples include pulp and paper, wood, and leathers along with crop based materials such as flax, hemp, bamboo and coconut fibres.. (materia.nl, 2016)
Emerging biobased materials, or biorenewables, are by contrast often active subjects of research and development and are where much of the innovation lies. These materials are extracted by bio-refining processes or produced from materials with biological origins. While these materials are not necessarily biodegradable, they can at least in part be ‘re-grown’. For example, sugar beets can be refined to first extract sugar, then lactic acid, and finally polylactic acid (PLA) for use in plastics. (materia.nl, 2016)
Despite the exciting advancements in the use of plant derived building materials, one particular difficulty involves ensuring agricultural land is not being used at the expense of global food production. In response, research groups such as SPLASH are looking at the sustainable production of polymers from algae, which may provide an interesting solution to this problem because algae farms do not require arable land. (materia.nl, 2016)
Another ongoing debate surrounds the question of certification. What percentage of a material must come from a plant or animal in order to be certified as biobased? 40%? 80%? What about standard quality requirements for biobased products such as strength, flexibility, permeability and organic degradability? Such standardization is an ongoing research topic and essential for the industry as it allows biobased products to be compared to other products and it also enables policy development. (materia.nl, 2016)
While biobased materials offer numerous positives in terms of environmental and human health when compared to many fossil fuel based materials, biobased materials offer numerous other beneficial qualities. Biobased materials are not only naturally breathable but are also warm and regulate moisture. (materia.nl, 2016)
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